Occasionally we go to a play without great expectations and leave realising that we have just seen a play that we will remember forever. Holding the Man fell into that rare category. I knew that the play was about two homosexual lovers but little more, so I was not prepared for the profound experience that was to follow.
One reviewer summarised the play as follows:
Deeply moving and often very funny, HOLDING THE MAN is the story of Tim and John who met in high school in the mid-1970s. Tim is an actor performing in the school production of Romeo & Juliet when he reveals his crush on John, captain of the football team. Over the next 15 years, an unlikely and remarkable relationship develops which weathers disapproval, temptation and ultimately death.
The play was adapted by Tommy Murphy from Tomothy Conigrave's memior,
published in 1995. Guy Edmonds plays Conigrave and Matt Zeremes plays John
The photo shows Zeremes and Edmonds as the teenage Caleo and Conigrave at school
Although Edmonds and Zeremes superbly realise the characters the play is a wonderful all round ensemble performance with the supporting actors Jeanette Cronin, Nicholas Eadie, Robin McLeavy and Brett Stiller playing a range of wonderfully performed characters. I particularly appreciated Jeanette Cronin who played a range of characters including Mrs Caleo and a particularly ugly boy. Her emotional and expressive range was very impressive. Another fine performance was from Nicholas Eadie who played the buttoned up, conservative and ultimately grasping Mr Caleo, as well as the new age, liberated mother of one of the boy's female friends.
Cronin and Eadie as Mrs and Mr Caleo
I can't resist the following quote from an Australian Stage online review:
We meet two families, we meet the parents, we meet the mates, we meet the circle jerkers, we meet the Gay soc meetings at University, we meet NIDA teachers, we meet the doctors who dish out the AZT treatments, we meet Conigrave performing Soft Targets at Griffin Theatre in 1986, we meet lover Caleo’s alter ego’s beset with dementia, memory loss and we meet an avalanche of Conigraves involuntary memories. We meet the soul of Caleo on his deathbed, we meet the puppet double of Caleo, the dessicated pile of skin and bones shed by the spirit that is too great for any mortal vessel. We meet the grief, we meet the loss, we meet the longing, we meet the cursory precious sense of love and belonging where true love resides.
This play has clearly been one of the highlights of the season, the other being The Season at Sarsparilla. They were both performed by sensational casts, with the most moving story from Holding the Man but more innovative staging from Sarsparilla